“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~ Berthold Auerbach.
One of the challenges of writing a message every Friday morning, is trying to knit together the variety of threads that catch my interest during the week. Some weeks random items come together in a harmonious message, eventually; at other times it may be a little bit easier to see the seams, those place where I stitched things together like a crazy quilt. You be the judge whether this is one of those weeks!
I used to joke (when I was in my child-bearing decade) that there are two kinds of women in the world: one kind get pregnant as soon as a man looks at them, the others are struggling, longing, to get pregnant. One does everything to avoid pregnancy, the other yearns for it. I actually experienced both feelings, since in between two sessions of being pregnant for 18 months straight (ok, that’s not factually true) there was a year of trying and not seeing results. It probably was no longer than a year, but it felt like forever. I also used to joke that (when I was in my menstruating years – and that may be the first time I have used that word in my writing ever) I thought my period was irregular until I had my tubes tied. Once I was no longer worrying about getting pregnant, my period was as regular as clockwork!
I was listening to a piece on fertility doctors, those magicians who help couples who are conceptionally challenged to have their own family. What we don’t know, even all these years of perfecting the science of the ‘test-tube baby’ as they used to be known, is that it is still an imperfect science. And for the woman in particular, the toll can be heavy, both physically and psychologically, with multiple uncomfortable procedures, taking medications, exposing your body and your soul to all manner of indignities which are only minimized if at the end of everything you are holding a baby in your arms.
The article was investigating the stories of a few women who had had bad experiences with in vitro fertilization and implantation, involving one doctor in particular who had excellent result statistics, but questionable ethics. Apparently results are based on howmany implantations result in a pregnancy, and do not look at whether the baby is healthy or not. His practice was to implant multiple embryos to improve the chances of having at least one viable fetus. What he did not tell the mothers (in fact, he was not the only physician to withhold information) was that with multiple births come increased risks to both the mother and the babies, despite the fact that there was no benefit to implanting more than one embryo at a time. His motive appeared to be the statistics which drove more business his way.
We take so much for granted, those of us who have never had to face that struggle of trying to conceive and ultimately give birth to your own child. Women who don’t have kids are impolitely questioned or silently judged, for failing to accomplish that most basic of human activities, reproduction. Hence the financial motivation for those who promise to fulfill the dream, to deliver the prize.
Of course having kids is a wonderful thing, though it comes with no guarantees, and the longed for child may grow up to bring all manner of challenges. Those who choose to adopt have to live with the ‘nature versus nurture’ argument. Will a loving family overcome potential problems which may have originated in the DNA, or in the womb of a mother who abused drugs or alcohol while pregnant? But the maternal drive is an amazing instinct. Earlier this year there were beautiful images of a duck on a Minnesota lake trailing over 70 little ducklings in her wake (some even traveled on her back). It turned out she was not even the mother! She was more like a grandmother, a matriarchal baby sitter, minding the communal ducklings while their mothers went out seeking food. There are certain breeds of birds (these were Merganser ducks) that have this system of daycare, an instinctive collaborative effort.
One of the habits that stays with anyone who ever held a baby, is that soothing rocking motion. Whether it soothes the baby, or the one holding the baby is unclear, but there is nothing so comforting as holding a contented baby in your arms, and rocking to a silent rhythm. We can imagine primitive woman inventing wordless lullabies to soothe a restless infant, and wonder if that’s where the first song came from.
The other day I heard about the origin of one of the earliest musical instruments, the lithophone. These are hollow rocks (the lith part of the word – if you have nephrolithiasis you have kidney stones!) that sing when struck. Some scientist had realized that the ancient rocks that had been sitting in her lab for decades made a beautiful sound when it was hit. This gave rise to the realization that primitive man had not only fashioned anything handy to make a tool for survival, they had also made music. What a wonderful thought! Even when life was brutish and short, human beings have surrounded their life with art, story telling and music.
This Friday morning a song has been playing in my head, ‘Do your thing’, thanks to a TV commercial. It is a song which encourages you to follow your heart, move to your own beat, to let the sound of an ancient lithophone echo through your soul. May music help you to relate to the stories of others so you can feel their pain. May it soothe your own struggles and bring a smile to your face. And as often as you can, dance like no one is watching you! Have a wonderful weekend, Family!